Some students won’t abandon friends. Others can’t find transportation.
But despite a thumbs-down from nearly half the gifted students and their families who were polled, the Spokane District 81 School Board has approved a full-time magnet school for gifted fifth- and sixth-graders.
The program will be the first of its kind in the district.
“I believe we’re offering choices to parents, and this is an important choice,” said board member Terrie Beaudreau before the unanimous vote late Wednesday.
“It’s awfully nice to know the option existed if I had such a son or daughter,” said Rocco Treppiedi, another board member.
Many parents, however, said no thanks. They’ll stick to the one-day-a-week gifted program their children now attend.
Fifty-seven of 119 families surveyed by school administrators said they wouldn’t or likely wouldn’t send their children to a full-time magnet program.
“It is our belief that it is beneficial to be in school with students of all abilities,” wrote one parent.
“My son feels challenged at present school and wants to be with friends,” wrote another.
Others said they would be hard-pressed to find rides to and from the classes at Libby Center, 2900 E. First. Buses won’t be provided.
Children worry they’ll miss band, art and PE classes and organizers can’t guarantee exactly what they will offer magnet-school students along those lines.
Wednesday’s vote will create one or two classrooms next fall, depending on demand. Parents still can opt to send gifted fifth- and sixth-graders to Tessera classes, the current once-a-week program.
Buses won’t be used for the magnet program because board policy says alternative programs can’t cost the district extra money, said Fran Mester, director of instructional programs.
“There’s no way we could have offered transportation without it costing the district additional money,” Mester said.
Some parents suggested car pools or an after-school program so children could stay until working parents arrive.
Mester expects to offer a band class but isn’t sure whether students will have access to teachers who specialize in art and physical education.
Board members also vowed Wednesday to try to recruit more gifted students from low-income neighborhoods.
Only about a third of the families who expressed interest in their children attending are from north Spokane, where more low-income schools are located, Beaudreau said.
“But I think this is something we can work on and be cognizant of,” she said.
Louise Chadez, a parent at Holmes Elementary School, 2600 W. Sharp, noted that discrepancy when asking board members to reject the magnet program.
“I don’t think there’s any secret that low-income schools aren’t represented as well as high-income schools,” she said.
“And I don’t think it’s because Holmes has no gifted students. So I have real concerns about that.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Will they come?
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Lower tax lid spells trouble, schools say Spokane’s first full-time school for gifted students and other special programs face an uncertain future if legislators allow local property tax limits to be reduced, school board members said Wednesday. District 81 had a state-imposed levy lid of 20 percent of state and federal education funding until 1993, when lawmakers temporarily raised the amount districts could collect from local taxpayers. That provision - which adds about $6.5 million to District 81’s $190 million annual budget - expires next year, said Associate Superintendent Walt Rulffes. Last week, the state Senate rejected a bill to continue the higher levy limits. The House is considering similar legislation. School administrators are bracing for disappointment. “We think it’s going to be an uphill struggle,” said Rulffes. -Jeanette White, staff writer